Stuck With You... + Part 11 (cont)

Trowa answered the timid knock on the door to find Quatre smiling shyly in the hallway, a plastic bag dangling from one hand, a bottle of wine in the other. He stepped aside and motioned the blond into his apartment. Quatre scooted past him, his powerful frame almost filling the doorway. Although still a few inches shorter than Trowa, who remained the tallest of the former pilots, Quatre was quite solidly built.

He set the bag of food on the table and turned to smile at his host, holding out the bottle. "It's not chilled," he said apologetically. "I kind of grabbed it out of the cellar at the last minute... "

Trowa smiled at what was most likely a falsehood, accepting the bottle and sticking it in the fridge for later. "Would you like water, juice, coffee... I'd offer you some of Duo's soda, but I value my life... "

Quatre laughed at the joke, and asked for water. Trowa poured them both a glass and set them on the table, turning around to pull out plates and utensils while Quatre looked around the small apartment.

"This place is... probably very heat efficient, huh?" Quatre said diplomatically.

Trowa snorted, amused by Quatre's politeness. "It's a glorified shoebox, but it's mine," he replied, looking around the small apartment fondly.

"It's certainly very festive," Quatre complimented, sea-blue eyes tracing the lines of sparkling Christmas lights and tinsel.

"Thanks," Trowa said. "Duo likes decorations so much, I thought it would be mean to make him live in an apartment without any."

"Ah," Quatre murmured, a thoughtful expression crossing his face at the reference to Trowa's absent roommate. "How is that working out? I mean, this place doesn't seem like it would comfortably fit two people," Quatre pointed out. "Unless they were sharing the bed," he added, then giggled nervously.

Trowa raised an eyebrow at the Arabian, and shook his head, sitting down at the table. "Let's eat before it gets cold," he suggested. "What did you bring anyway?"

"Thai," Quatre responded, pulling the extra chair a little closer to Trowa before sitting down. Quatre always liked to sit near people while eating, for more intimate conversations. Duo liked a lot of room, so no one could easily steal his food off his plate.

"Tandoori chicken?" Trowa asked hopefully.

"Of course! I know what you like," Quatre replied brightly.

Trowa carefully did not respond to that comment.

They had a pleasant dinner, making small talk about inconsequential things, office gossip, and shared memories. Eventually, though, the food was gone. Trowa set the plates in the sink and pulled the wine out of the refrigerator with a slight feeling of trepidation. Quatre had wandered into the living room part of the main room, which Trowa tended to think of as Duo's bedroom these days. The blond settled on the sofa and smiled at Trowa as he approached.

There wasn't anywhere else to sit except on the sofa.

Trowa sat down on the opposite end from Quatre and set the wine and glasses on the coffee table, pushing aside a few of Duo's magazines so they didn't get soggy. He poured and offered Quatre a glass, and took one for himself. They both leaned back against the cushions and sipped their wine for a moment.

"I suppose you expect me to start telling you that you secretly long to get back together with me," Quatre remarked, with a self-depracating smile.

Trowa looked at his guest in surprise, not sure how to respond.

Quatre glanced over at him assessingly, then studied the lip of his wineglass. "I know I rather gave myself away last night," he admitted. "And I know how it irritates you when I don't take responsibility for my own motivations. So... I thought I'd try brutal honesty as a tactic this time. If nothing else, it'll be new, right?"

"I suppose," Trowa murmured warily. He wasn't sure where Quatre was going with this. It just wasn't like the blond to so baldly admit to a position of weakness.

Quatre sighed. "Trowa... I'm not going to play the projection game tonight, okay? I'm not going to pretend that I think you're the one who wants us to get back together. I'm just going to be honest about my feelings, and I'm hoping you will return the courtesy."

"I'm usually pretty honest," Trowa said slowly. He thought he could see Quatre's logic now. By not acting like he usually did, he was hoping to throw Trowa off balance enough to...

To what?Trowa demanded of himself irritably. Come on, Trowa, you're being just a bit paranoid here. Not even Quatre could possibly think you could be shocked into getting back together with him after a year apart just because he abandoned his usual tactics for a night.

Maybe he's just tired of the games. As tired as I got.

"Yes, you are," Quatre agreed. His lips twisted in a bitter smile. "Which was why it was so easy for me to make you play the role I wanted you to in our break up," he admitted candidly. "You were honest... about your frustration, about your anger, about your hurt... In your own quiet way, you were very emotional. And I... " He sighed again. "I wasn't raised to be that way, Trowa. Emotionally honest in public, I mean. I can manage it among close friends, and please believe I was always honest with you in private, but when we were out in front of the whole office like that, I just... It's almost instinctive in me, the urge to project a good image, to be in control. I wasn't, really, any more than you were. But you... admitted it. And I... used that, to make you look weak. To make you look like the one who was desperate to hold on... when really, it was me all along."

"Quatre... " Trowa said slowly. "I... I was pretty mad at you, for that. For a long time. But... it's okay, now, you know. I let it go. I don't think it was your finest hour, but... well, it wasn't mine, either. We both did things we probably regret this past year, that have gotten in the way of one of the best friendships I've ever had. I don't want to think about it anymore, Quatre. I don't want to worry and obsess and be bitter or angry about it. I just want to put it all behind us and move on."

Quatre smiled softly at him over his wineglass. "I think... I think I would like to, also. But Trowa... I... can't," he said softly, looking down into the glass. A large tear rolled down his cheek and he frowned irritably. "Oh, bother," he muttered, sounding annoyed. "I really have to stop doing this."

"Yes, you do," Trowa agreed, smiling in amusement. He leaned over and wiped the tear away with the back of his hand, then slid his finger down beneath Quatre's chin to tip his face back up. Quatre stared at him curiously from an arm's length away, and Trowa smiled gently at his former lover. "Just let it go, Quatre," he advised. " ‘Bravely it lived, and gallantly it died'," he quoted.

"Dorothy Parker," Quatre identified reflexively. Then he sighed and gently pulled his chin out of Trowa's grip. "I know, Trowa, I know it's over, and I know I should... let go... move on... but... I just can't."

"Why not?" Trowa asked curiously, sipping at his wine.

Quatre ran his finger around the rim of his wineglass and sighed again. "You were my first love, Trowa. And I guess... somewhere deep down, I thought you were... my one true love. Like a fairy tale, you know? I thought... somehow... that we'd always be together. Happily ever after."

Trowa smiled sadly at Quatre. "But we aren't Quatre. We're not together. We weren't happy. Sometimes, love just isn't enough, and for us... it wasn't. There just wasn't enough left, when the war ended and we had time to be more than soldiers and lovers, to hold us together."

"We held together for six years without the war," Quatre pointed out quietly.

"Yes, out of sheer stubbornness and a fear of losing everything if we let go of anything. We should have broken up years earlier than we did. You and I were just not meant to be together," Trowa said, as gently as he could.

"I know," Quatre murmured softly, still refusing to meet Trowa's gaze. "I know. You're right. But... it still hurts. And... sometimes I wonder... if I'll always be alone."

Trowa frowned. "Quatre... why would you always be alone?" he asked in surprise. "You're attractive, you're intelligent, you're kind and gentle and polite... "

"And impotent," Quatre added miserably.

Trowa bit his lip to hold back entirely inappropriate amusement.

"Oh, go ahead and laugh," Quatre muttered, taking a gulp of his wine. "I'm sure it's quite amusing. And I'm sure Duo already told you, or I wouldn't have brought it up." A snicker escaped Trowa at the phrase "brought it up", and Quatre glared at him.

"I'm sorry," he apologized contritely. "It's not funny, I know... but Quatre... I just don't understand why. I mean, you never had any problem with me."

"Well, that's just it," Quatre groused. "Like I told you before, you were my first love. You were my first... everything. And at the rate I'm going, you'll be my only everything."

"Quatre... " Trowa said soothingly, "I'm sure it's just temporary. Lots of guys have this problem every now and then... "

"It's been temporary for a year!" Quatre snapped, glowering at Trowa. "Every time I try, I just... I remember... that you... stopped loving me, and I just get... worried that... " He trailed off into silence, playing with his glass again. "I'm afraid that... I'm a bad lover," he admitted quietly.

"That's ridiculous!" Trowa exclaimed. "I mean, you were clumsy at first, but... everyone is at first! You learned very quickly, as I recall. Trust me, Quatre, you are not bad in bed," he insisted.

Quatre frowned thoughtfully at him. "Well, if you say so... but I'm still very... uncertain about it."

"How many people have you tried it with?" Trowa asked curiously.

Quatre blushed bright red at the blunt question, but finally answered, "Well... aside from Duo... there was this one time with Heero, on a mission... "

Trowa nearly choked on his wine. "You... and Heero?" he gasped, trying to wrap his mind around that concept.

Quatre shrugged. "He's my friend. So is Duo. I don't know if you realize this, but... I don't have that many people I'm close to. I was raised to be paranoid about gold diggers and industrial spies, and then there was my time as a Gundam pilot, which didn't exactly inspire me to faith in humanity, and... well, I don't think I could be with someone I didn't trust completely. And that kind of limits my options," he concluded morosely.

"Yes, we do have kind of a small dating pool, don't we?" Trowa mused to himself. Quatre gave him a curious glance, and Trowa informed him, "You're not the only one who feels that way, Quatre... About not trusting anyone outside... our little group, I mean."

"Really?" Quatre asked.

"Really," Trowa assured him. "Wufei and I were just talking about it the other day, and I'm pretty sure Duo feels the same way... and can you even imagine Heero trying to relate to someone without our background?"

"I... guess not," Quatre admitted with a rueful grin. Then he frowned. "But... Wufei dates other people," he pointed out.

Trowa shrugged. "He's never serious about them," he said. "They rarely last more than one night, and the ones that do end up as friends, not lovers. No, trust me, he's not interested in settling down with anyone who's not part of our exclusive little club." Which was about as far as he could go for Wufei without coming right out and telling Quatre the Chinese man was interested. He felt a vague sort of regret on Ken's behalf, but he'd rather suspected the younger agent was wasting his time anyway.

Then another thought occurred to Trowa, and he asked, "So, Quatre, if you've only tried to have sex twice in the past year, how do you know you've... had this problem the whole time?"

Quatre shrugged. "Well, I'm not even attracted to anybody outside the four of you, so it doesn't really matter," he said. "With Heero, I guess it could have been nerves, he's always so... .intense. But Duo... it should have been easy with Duo. But it wasn't. I just kept thinking... why didn't Trowa want to sleep with me anymore? What do I do wrong? Am I really bad at it?"

"Quatre!" Trowa snapped. "I already told you, you're not bad at it!"

"But you don't want to sleep with me!" Quatre snapped back.

"That has nothing to do with your... level of ability!" Trowa declared.

"Well, what does it have to do with then?" Quatre demanded.

"The fact that we're not a couple anymore!" Trowa half-shouted at him.

"What has that got to do with the price of tea in China?" Quatre yelled back.

Trowa blinked at him in surprise. "The... price of tea?"

"It's an expression," Quatre muttered wearily, rubbing at his forehead. "It means... your argument is unrelated to the topic."

Trowa frowned. "How is the fact that we're no longer together not related to whether or not I want to have sex with you?" he asked, bewildered.

Quatre shot him an incredulous look. "You're living with Duo and you're asking me that question?" he asked flatly.

Trowa frowned at him a moment. Then his eyes widened in understanding. "Quatre... " he murmured in disbelief.

Quatre smiled weakly at him. "I know we're finished, Trowa. I know you don't want to get back together. And I think... I know why," he added, glancing around the cheerfully decorated apartment. Then he looked back over at Trowa and said wearily, "I just need... the familiarity. I'm comfortable with you, I trust you... If we could just... If we could try, maybe I... " he shrugged. "I don't know why, but I think it would help. I think I could let go if we could just have one more night. So I suppose what I'm trying to ask is, are we good enough friends not to let a little sex get in the way?"

That was entirely not the question Trowa had been expecting out of Quatre that evening, and despite all the build up, it still took him off guard. "Quatre... " he murmured, "how will that help? Just one night, I mean... "

Quatre waved a hand vaguely. "It's just that... I know I can do it with you. I've done it so often before, it's not an effort, it's not a challenge... it's just comfortable. Familiar."

"How flattering," Trowa muttered, but he smiled, sipping at his wine. Considering. "The thing is... " Trowa said slowly, "I'm in love with Duo."

"Oh," Quatre murmured in surprise, blinking at him. "I, uh, didn't realize you two had... already... "

"Oh, we're not sleeping together yet," Trowa admitted. "I haven't even told him how I feel. But I just wanted that said, up front."

Quatre nodded. "I... understand," he said, smiling ruefully. "You don't want me getting any romantic notions about one night of sex rejuvenating our relationship."

"No," Trowa said firmly.

"That's okay," Quatre murmured. "I think I've grown up a little."

"We all have," Trowa said quietly. Then he set his empty glass on the coffee table and stood, holding a hand out to Quatre. "So, shall we?" he asked softly.

Quatre blinked up at him in surprise. Apparently he hadn't expected his request to be granted. But he set his own glass aside and took Trowa's hand, pulling himself up from the couch. They didn't speak as Trowa led the Arabian into his bedroom.

Trowa was having a few misgivings about this. On the one hand, it was just sex, with a friend. Quatre was his friend, and if he could help the blond man with this problem, he supposed he owed Quatre that for his years of patience. But still... there was Duo. He didn't really want to sleep with anyone but Duo right now.

But Duo was with Heero tonight. And Quatre was right here...

It had been a long time. And Trowa had recently realized how truly lonely he had been ever since he and Quatre had ended their relationship.

His heart was already devoted to Duo. But the American ran away when they kissed. There was still a slight sense of frustration inside him from that encounter. It would be a relief, just to let off some of the tension...

Quatre had quietly disrobed, and stood silently, waiting for Trowa beside the bed. Lamplight gleamed on smooth, tanned skin over firm, well-defined muscles and soft golden hair. Quatre was bulkier than Duo, and taller, but... he was beautiful, in his own way. Trowa's body remembered how it felt to be pressed against that broad chest, remembered the smooth skin under his hands, and began to react.

He slowly began removing his own clothing, noting from Quatre's growing smile and stiffening member that the Arabian had at least been right in the assumption that he would be fully functional with Trowa.

When they slipped into each other's arms on the bed, Trowa had one more brief flash of guilt. But hadn't Duo slept with Wufei? And he'd tried to sleep with Quatre... It wasn't like Trowa was betraying his feelings for the American. This wasn't that kind of encounter. It was just... deeply meaningful meaningless sex.

Quatre ran a gentle hand up his spine in a familiar caress, and Trowa forgot how dissatisfied he'd been with that description when Duo had given it.

If he'd really stopped to think about the general rules of probability, or at least Murphy's all-powerful Law, Trowa might have realized what was bound to happen just as he and Quatre reached the mutual peak of a year of suppressed passions. But instead, he was shocked into silent immobility when the door of his bedroom pushed open and Duo walked in.

"Hey, Tro, I guess you didn't hear me knock, so I picked the lock. I gotta get a key one of these days. The party completely sucked so we left early and I oh my God."

Duo abruptly fell silent, staring in open-mouthed surprise at the sweaty, entwined forms he seemed to have just noticed on the bed.

Quatre, unfortunately, was completely oblivious to Duo's presence. So oblivious, in fact, that he chose that precise moment to reach his climax, his back arching as he thrust deep within Trowa. Trowa's eyes shut involuntarily at the force of Quatre's movement, so he didn't get to see the look on Duo's face when the Arabian screamed at the top of his lungs, "Allah! I love you, Trowa!"

But that was probably just as well.

Quatre wriggled his hips in a practiced motion, his hand reaching down to grab Trowa's erection in a firm grip. Trowa pushed feebly at Quatre's shoulders, trying to get him off, trying to summon the presence of mind to speak to Duo...

Just wait in the kitchen for a minute, I'll be right with you, he thought sarcastically. Right, Trowa. Good luck.

But Quatre's ministrations had more of an effect on his body than internal sarcasm. The blond managed to push him rapidly over the edge, and before he knew it, he was yelling incoherently, and then he was limp and sweaty with Quatre laying beside him.

Trowa only lay there a moment before jumping out of bed and running back out into the main room of his apartment, still completely naked.

There was no sign of Duo, except... a note stuck to the fridge.

Trowa walked over and pulled it off as Quatre appeared in the bedroom doorway, frowning in concern and wrapped in Trowa's robe.

"Trowa? Is something wrong?" he asked quietly.

Hey Tro! Sooooo sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt, just didn't realize you were... entertaining! J Anyway, I know three's a crowd, so I'm gonna go crash on Heero's couch. And I'm really, really sorry! Heh heh, I guess it's time I started looking for my own place, huh? Seeya -- Duo

Trowa set the note down on the table and walked over to sit on the couch. Quatre picked up the note, read it, and looked worriedly over at the silent man.

"It's just a misunderstanding," he pointed out hopefully. "We'll just explain tomorrow, and everything will be okay. Right, Trowa?" Quatre waited a moment, but Trowa didn't respond. With a sigh, the blond went back into Trowa's bedroom and emerged a few minutes later, fully dressed. He walked to the apartment door and opened it, pausing in the doorway to look back with a sad expression on his face. "I'm really sorry," he whispered. After another moment of silence, he sighed and slipped out the door, shutting it softly.

Trowa sat on the couch and stared at the Christmas lights, and shivered in the cold apartment.

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